Pictured (Clockwise): DA Vance and the East Harlem Community Navigators, The Esperanza Prep Band, DA Vance Speaking to Attendees, Performers from Hip Hop Dance Theatre
On Saturday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the investment of more than $1.6 million in an innovative new program to connect individuals with the resources and services they need to prevent future crime and re-victimization. The East Harlem Community Navigators program officially launched on Saturday with an event for community members at Union Settlement. The event featured food from Sabor Borinqueno, poetry by Rich Villar & Maribelle Vazquez, performances by Hip Hop Dance Theatre and the Esperanza Preparatory Academy Band, balloon animals and face painting. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos joined the festivities. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is providing this funding through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (“CJII”), which District Attorney Vance created using criminal forfeiture funds obtained through the Office’s settlements with international banks for violating U.S. sanctions.
“Although New York City has a wealth of services available for victims of crime and individuals involved in the justice system, the volume of available resources and the process of accessing them can be overwhelming,” said District Attorney Vance. “I’m proud to announce the launch the East Harlem Community Navigators program to connect those in need of services with individuals who can help them navigate different systems, government agencies, and organizations. I expect many in the East Harlem community will take advantage of this network of highly-trained peers and social workers to obtain the services they need.”
City University of New York Institute for State and Local Governance (“CUNY ISLG”) Executive Director Michael P. Jacobson said: “Community navigators have the potential to transform how we support our fellow New Yorkers. The navigators themselves are from the communities they’re working in, and they are as diverse as their neighborhoods. Community navigators are young people, parents, and grandparents. It’s a remarkable initiative that draws together people who care about helping their neighbors and puts them to work doing just that.”
Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College Associate Dean of Scholarship and Research Gerald Mallon said: “Hunter College is pleased to partner with the Manhattan DA’s Office adding to our already extensive engagement with the East Harlem community. With funding from them Hunter will play a key role in this important community based initiative by planning and developing the Community Navigator Program at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. This program connects individuals in the East Harlem community to resources and services and expertly navigates individuals who have unmet service needs in the community, linking them to vital, quality services that they want or need but may not currently be accessing. The focus of our work is with those who have been affected by domestic violence and with young people (ages 14 to 21) who are at risk of becoming involved in the justice system.”
East Harlem Community Navigators Program
During a research and consultation process led by CUNY ISLG (see below), many experts and practitioners reported that a coordinated effort to connect people with available services and resources was urgently needed. To support these efforts, as part of the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII), the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office invested more than $1.6 million in a program to create Community Navigators, a network of trained peers and social workers who will work with individuals to locate, connect, engage, and stay involved with the services they need. The navigators are mobile; they meet people where they are, and serve as the bridge to guide individuals across different systems, city agencies, and organizations to ensure they are connected with the services and resources they need to meet their needs and achieve their goals.
The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College is responsible for managing the East Harlem Community Navigator program, including recruiting, hiring, training, and managing the Navigators. The Silberman School will also collaborate with city agencies and community-based service providers to explore needs and to facilitate cooperation and coordination. The Navigators are based in East Harlem, across the street from the Silberman School at 181A East 119th Street, between Third and Lexington Avenues, and can be reached by calling 212-722-3024.
The Navigators will focus on working with young people between the ages of 14 and 21 in the East Harlem area who are at risk of becoming involved in the justice system, and with victims of domestic violence. Ultimately, the network of Navigators will expand to other Manhattan neighborhoods, and will also work with youth and adults who are involved in the justice system, other victims of crime, and people returning to neighborhoods from incarceration.
CJII Research and Consultation Process
This announcement follows a research process led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and facilitated by the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), CJII’s technical assistance provider.
The CJII plan and investments are the result of an extensive process incorporating research, data analysis, and outreach to community leaders and stakeholders conducted by CUNY ISLG. As the technical assistance provider, ISLG analyzed research in areas affecting public safety in New York City, including systemic factors at the neighborhood level that have an impact on crime, and data from a number of agencies involved in the criminal justice system. In addition, ISLG conducted extensive interviews with more than 250 experts in the criminal justice community and related fields, including clinical practitioners; leaders from philanthropic, non-profit, and grassroots organizations; representatives of local, state, and federal government agencies; academics; and elected officials. Following this process, ISLG worked with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to develop a comprehensive set of investments that, together, will have a significant, lasting impact on public safety and justice reform in New York City. ISLG will provide program oversight and performance measurement to grantees selected under CJII.
Investments in Pre-Arraignment Diversion, Alternatives to Incarceration, and Reentry Programming
In October, District Attorney Vance awarded $7.1 million in grants to three social enterprises, creating employment opportunities and career training for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers.
In June, District Attorney Vance awarded $6.5 million in grants to divert first time, low-level offenders from the justice system. He previously invested $7.3 million to pay for New York’s first statewide college-in-prison program; and $600,000 to fund “Project Reset,” a county-wide pre-arraignment diversion program for 16- and 17-year-olds arrested for low-level crimes.
In March, District Attorney Vance announced funding to create innovative programming and support existing services for New Yorkers reentering communities after periods of incarceration ($15 million), and to create a blueprint for a new Manhattan Criminal Court Resource Center to offer services and alternatives to jail for low-level offenders, ranging from meaningful community service to mental health programming. Last fall, District Attorney Vance announced funding to develop an abusive partner intervention program to interrupt domestic violence ($1.4 million).
Investments in Access to Victims Services and Youth and Family Programming
In October, District Attorney Vance invested $3.75 million in innovative programs for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. In April, District Attorney Vance announced the investment of $11.8 million in services for historically underserved victims of crime, including: people of color; immigrants and non-native English speakers; LGBTQ individuals; and individuals who are D/deaf or hard of hearing. In February, he invested $45.9 million to create and construct “Youth Opportunity Hubs” to knit together community-based providers and build new spaces for young people; as well as $12 million to enhance family and youth development programming. This funding followed earlier investments of $1.5 million for a pilot network of community navigators to guide at-risk individuals to appropriate services and programs; and $7.5 million to expand Saturday Night Lights, the District Attorney’s Office’s signature youth violence prevention initiative operating in 14 locations across Manhattan.
Earlier Transformative Investments
Other investments previously announced by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office include: $90 million to equip the NYPD with tablets, handheld devices, and mobile databases for every police officer and patrol car; $101 million for critical NYCHA security upgrades, including cameras, lighting, and keyless access; $38 million to help end the national backlog of untested rape kits; $40 million towards the City’s comprehensive mental health initiatives, including $14 million for supervised release for eligible defendants pre-trial; and $25 million to form the cross-border, cross-sector, not-for-profit Global Cyber Alliance.